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The Tarball Chronicles: A Journey Beyond the Oiled Pelican and Into the Heart of the Gulf Oil Spill

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The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history: over the course of three months, nearly five million barrels of crude oil gushed into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and washed up along our coast. Yet it was an avoidable environmental catastrophe preceded by myriad others, from Three-Mile Island to the Exxon Valdez. Traveling the shores of The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history: over the course of three months, nearly five million barrels of crude oil gushed into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and washed up along our coast. Yet it was an avoidable environmental catastrophe preceded by myriad others, from Three-Mile Island to the Exxon Valdez. Traveling the shores of the Gulf from east to west with oceanographers, subsistence fisherman, seafood distributors, and other long-time Gulf residents, acclaimed author and environmental advocate David Gessner offers an affecting account of the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. With The Tarball Chronicles Gessner tells a story that extends beyond the archetypal oil-soaked pelican, beyond politics, beyond BP. Instead he explores the ecosystem of the Gulf as a complicated whole and focuses on the people whose lives and livelihoods have been jeopardized by the spill. He reintroduces this oil spill as a template for so many man-made disasters and the long-term consequences they pose for ecosystems and communities. From the compelling people and places Gessner encounters on his journey we learn not only the extensive consequences of our actions but also how to break a destructive cycle. Throughout, The Tarball Chronicles suggests we can make a change in the way we live and prevent future disasters if we are willing to fundamentally rethink our connections to the natural world. "This is a book about connections," Gessner writes, "and never have we needed to make connections like we do right now."


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The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history: over the course of three months, nearly five million barrels of crude oil gushed into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and washed up along our coast. Yet it was an avoidable environmental catastrophe preceded by myriad others, from Three-Mile Island to the Exxon Valdez. Traveling the shores of The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history: over the course of three months, nearly five million barrels of crude oil gushed into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and washed up along our coast. Yet it was an avoidable environmental catastrophe preceded by myriad others, from Three-Mile Island to the Exxon Valdez. Traveling the shores of the Gulf from east to west with oceanographers, subsistence fisherman, seafood distributors, and other long-time Gulf residents, acclaimed author and environmental advocate David Gessner offers an affecting account of the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. With The Tarball Chronicles Gessner tells a story that extends beyond the archetypal oil-soaked pelican, beyond politics, beyond BP. Instead he explores the ecosystem of the Gulf as a complicated whole and focuses on the people whose lives and livelihoods have been jeopardized by the spill. He reintroduces this oil spill as a template for so many man-made disasters and the long-term consequences they pose for ecosystems and communities. From the compelling people and places Gessner encounters on his journey we learn not only the extensive consequences of our actions but also how to break a destructive cycle. Throughout, The Tarball Chronicles suggests we can make a change in the way we live and prevent future disasters if we are willing to fundamentally rethink our connections to the natural world. "This is a book about connections," Gessner writes, "and never have we needed to make connections like we do right now."

30 review for The Tarball Chronicles: A Journey Beyond the Oiled Pelican and Into the Heart of the Gulf Oil Spill

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tuck

    Records the aftermath (as we knew it then in summer and fall of 2010, hells bells, we really don’t know much more now, except it was horrible and will haunt the earth for many more years to come) of the BP well blowout in gulf of mexico. Concentrates on more than a superficial news bite of a picture of an oiled pelican, but rather all the webs of life in the gulf. The delta, that has been ruined by corps of engineers for ship navigation, the oil industry that has ruined the salt and fresh water Records the aftermath (as we knew it then in summer and fall of 2010, hells bells, we really don’t know much more now, except it was horrible and will haunt the earth for many more years to come) of the BP well blowout in gulf of mexico. Concentrates on more than a superficial news bite of a picture of an oiled pelican, but rather all the webs of life in the gulf. The delta, that has been ruined by corps of engineers for ship navigation, the oil industry that has ruined the salt and fresh water marshes over the last 130 years, the fishermen and hunters who have devastated (all the while saying how much they LOVE their environment and “lifestyle”) most all the wild life that is edible and/or salable over the last 200 years, the yuppies with the mcmansions built on the beaches, boo hooing any sort of erosion that might jeopardize “their investment” etc etc etc. well written and fairly entertaining, but all in all not a lot of facts. Maybe he will write another one soon. Author founded and edits a journal called Ecotone, out of u of north Carolina Wilmington. Of note, of the 3 BP shit-in-the-nest books i have read, 9780062063007 and rowan”s 9781608195817 and this one, I like rowan’s the best, followed by this one because the author drinks and cusses a lot. Fire on the Horizon: The Untold Story of the Explosion Aboard the Deepwater HorizonShadows on the Gulf: A Journey through Our Last Great Wetland

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ross

    The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill was an epic disaster, sure. But oil development was a disaster for the Gulf coast long before the spill, and BP's mess may cause ripple effects far into the future. David Gessner, the bird-watching, beer-swilling nature writer de jure went to the Gulf to report on this larger story. To shed light on the generations-deep human economy and way of life that is dependent on and intimately connected with the ecology of the sea, its barrier islands, the river and its The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill was an epic disaster, sure. But oil development was a disaster for the Gulf coast long before the spill, and BP's mess may cause ripple effects far into the future. David Gessner, the bird-watching, beer-swilling nature writer de jure went to the Gulf to report on this larger story. To shed light on the generations-deep human economy and way of life that is dependent on and intimately connected with the ecology of the sea, its barrier islands, the river and its delta and marshes and estuaries. Fishing. Hunting. Boating. A way life that, Gessner says, is being sacraficed, right now, to put gasoline in your and my tank for as cheap as possible. If they're sacrificing their way of life for our ease and convenience, he asks, don't we owe it them to at least acknowledge that sacrifice? Read my complete review (and other's comments) at: http://bit.ly/nARYTJ

  3. 4 out of 5

    D.W. Davis

    I've never read a book that caused me to rethink my point-of-view on our use of fossil fuels to drive our lifestyle the way David Gessner did in THE TARBALL CHRONICLES. It was an eye-opening exposure to the reality of what the spill means, and will mean, to the people of the Gulf, and indeed, all of us, for years and decades to come.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    This book was hard to put down. Gessner has a gift for taking something so horrifying and making sure that comes across while also portraying a proud people and the beauty of nature even in a soiled state. I was angry most of the time while reading this but also touched by the people he met and their dedication to the land. I appreciate that he is able to find beauty in people and in the land while ensuring that we are forced to face the consequences of our national choices.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I was just on a work trip to the New Orleans area to discuss environmental issues with local leaders, so this seemed like a good book to read to set some context for our conversations. I really enjoy David Gessner's writing style, but readers should be warned that he is not strictly a journalist and not strictly a nature writer. In this book he tries to be a little of both. I wouldn't be surprised if Gessner has been criticized for not examining enough sources in the telling of what happened in I was just on a work trip to the New Orleans area to discuss environmental issues with local leaders, so this seemed like a good book to read to set some context for our conversations. I really enjoy David Gessner's writing style, but readers should be warned that he is not strictly a journalist and not strictly a nature writer. In this book he tries to be a little of both. I wouldn't be surprised if Gessner has been criticized for not examining enough sources in the telling of what happened in the aftermath of the oil spill. Actually, one of the people we met in our workshop knew one of the people Gessner interviewed personally, and in his opinion that source was "a complete idiot." So, I read this with a grain of salt and now feel like I want to read more-- the spill was such a shocking thing to witness in the news cycle, but just like everything else it faded from America's collective memory within a couple weeks, especially since the oil didn't remain on the surface. It was good to revisit it and to realize that not only are impacts still taking place, but there are impacts that even the best scientists still don't completely understand. Scarily, I also learned that BP sends people out with every scientist on every study that takes place in the Gulf- according to Gessner, this is so they can watch for any tiny mistake in data collection and have stronger evidence to dispute future court claims asking for BP take responsibility for damage. Very disturbing. Ironically while we were in Louisiana, two major things happened: one, BP agreed to pay massive fines not only for manslaughter charges but also for environmental impacts. Two, another rig blew up just off the coast of Grand Isle. According to our local contacts, these explosions happen all the time- a handful every month. I liked how this book made me examine my own connections to all that is happening. Gessner refers to the Gulf as our "national sacrifice zone" and asks that each of us examine and acknowledge just exactly what is being sacrificed, who is doing the sacrificing, and what is being gained. He calls that "doing the honest math." I'll be thinking about this for a long time.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jacki

    Nature author David Gessner (My Green Manifesto) didn't plan to write about the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but when he heard the Gulf called a "national sacrifice zone," Gessner had to know who and what had been sacrificed. He traveled the Gulf states in search of the story beyond "the oiled pelican": the perception of the spill as a finite crisis, solved by dispersants and a capped well. With a journalist's attention to detail and an engaging conversational style, Gessner offers reade Nature author David Gessner (My Green Manifesto) didn't plan to write about the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but when he heard the Gulf called a "national sacrifice zone," Gessner had to know who and what had been sacrificed. He traveled the Gulf states in search of the story beyond "the oiled pelican": the perception of the spill as a finite crisis, solved by dispersants and a capped well. With a journalist's attention to detail and an engaging conversational style, Gessner offers readers a walk along the stained but beautiful Gulf and the chance to hear stories and fears of the hardworking Americans BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg called "the small people." Whether he's speaking of human or dolphin culture, Gessner's passion and eloquence is irresistible as he explains that the idea of working with nature is not a political agenda but a practical ability our species is losing. Equally adept at communicating the wonders of the ocean and the far-reaching consequences of destroying a single habitat, Gessner at times paints a bleak picture but also remains hopeful that the aspects of human nature that led us to this pass will be the very aspects that save us in the long run. If you read only one book about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill this year, it should be this one. If you plan not to read any books about it, make an exception for this blunt, funny, eye-opening quest to find the real stories behind the Gulf crisis. ***This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness Readers Edition. Sign up for this free and awesome newsletter at http://www.shelf-awareness.com for the latest news and reviews! This review refers to an ARC provided by Shelf Awareness.***

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lydia Presley

    Travel stories, personal anecdotes, scientific evidence, soul-searching questions, and environmental tourism all combine in David Gessner’s beautifully written book, The Tarball Chronicles. Even the cover, featuring the image of a man’s body, clad in protective gear, with the head of the infamous “oiled pelican” gives the reader a predictive look into the story held within the pages of Gessner’s book. Much like the illustrative pelican/man, Gessner draws heavily on the idea of connectivity and h Travel stories, personal anecdotes, scientific evidence, soul-searching questions, and environmental tourism all combine in David Gessner’s beautifully written book, The Tarball Chronicles. Even the cover, featuring the image of a man’s body, clad in protective gear, with the head of the infamous “oiled pelican” gives the reader a predictive look into the story held within the pages of Gessner’s book. Much like the illustrative pelican/man, Gessner draws heavily on the idea of connectivity and how it is impossible to escape that web that binds us together with every other thing. Read the rest of this review at The Lost Entwife.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marissa Landrigan

    Extraordinary book. While I know Gessner's magazine writing, this was the first full-length of his I've read, and it's the real deal. In this accounting, Gessner shows the true value of a story observed as closely and in as much real time as possible; by being present in the Gulf for the worst of it, he's able to tell a version of the story that dives much deeper than any news coverage, and to do so with evocative, lush description. It's also clear that Gessner took his time with this narrative, Extraordinary book. While I know Gessner's magazine writing, this was the first full-length of his I've read, and it's the real deal. In this accounting, Gessner shows the true value of a story observed as closely and in as much real time as possible; by being present in the Gulf for the worst of it, he's able to tell a version of the story that dives much deeper than any news coverage, and to do so with evocative, lush description. It's also clear that Gessner took his time with this narrative, allowing what he saw and heard to work on him, allowing himself time to turn what he'd seen over and over in his mind, to think long and hard and deep. The result is a deeply-reported but also deeply-felt story, a smart but genuine work, a heartfelt call to arms.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    David Gessner goes to witness the Gulf Oil spill and finds BP (the company that caused the problem) is also in charge of the clean-up. Local fishermen who have lost their livelihoods are forced to work for BP and incidentally, sign an agreement not to talk to news media. Realizing that the delta of the Mississippi River has become a fossil-fuel sacrifice zone, Gessner wonders if anyone has thought through the nature of the environmental sacrifice that runs the modern world. What happens to local David Gessner goes to witness the Gulf Oil spill and finds BP (the company that caused the problem) is also in charge of the clean-up. Local fishermen who have lost their livelihoods are forced to work for BP and incidentally, sign an agreement not to talk to news media. Realizing that the delta of the Mississippi River has become a fossil-fuel sacrifice zone, Gessner wonders if anyone has thought through the nature of the environmental sacrifice that runs the modern world. What happens to local people left behind in the ruins when land is sucked dry of everything that made it "local". What do we gain by our fossil fuel dependence? What is lost?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    The best thing about the oil spill in the gulf and its implications for us and the environment. And it's funny. Gessner is a great and engaging writer, and his travel around the area changed by the oil spill puts a human face on an abstract environmental disaster. Great read!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    Enjoying this one a great deal...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jeannie

    This book didn't cause me to reshape my opinions or thoughts regarding oil consumption and spills, but it did reinforce them.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Milkweed Editions

    Southern Environmental Law Center Reed Award

  14. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Ooten

    Great updated companion piece to Bayou Farewell. Terribly disheartening in terms of environmental devastation and the quick demise of Louisiana's bayous.

  15. 4 out of 5

    sdw

    I enjoyed Gessner's writing style, and I enjoyed being forced to meditate on the Deepwater Horizon spill. It is a book that tries not to be preachy on a topic it is hard not to be preachy about.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Kobal

  17. 5 out of 5

    Scott Amero

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez

  19. 4 out of 5

    Reynold Addams

  20. 4 out of 5

    Debra

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hailee

  22. 4 out of 5

    Matt Rosier

  23. 4 out of 5

    Janine DeBaise

  24. 4 out of 5

    Collin

  25. 5 out of 5

    Valley Knapp

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Carter

  27. 5 out of 5

    Christianna Fritz

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kristy

  29. 5 out of 5

    J. Neil Blackman

  30. 5 out of 5

    Will

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